Virginia prepares for Miami
No. 12 Cavaliers look to improve on record-breaking ACC campaign
The No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers will look to extend their winning streak to 12 games when they take on the Miami Hurricanes Wednesday night in Charlottesville. A win against Miami would mark coach Tony Bennett’s 100th career win with Virginia.
The Cavaliers (23-5, 14-1 ACC) have improved their win total every year of Bennett’s tenure, and a victory against the Hurricanes would continue that trend.
For the Cavaliers, Miami (14-13, 5-9 ACC) is just a speed bump on the road to the big showdown against No. 4 Syracuse this Saturday. The Hurricanes, with the 341st-ranked offense in the country, will likely struggle against Virginia’s No. 1 national scoring defense.
But despite its defensive prowess, Virginia has not been able to pull away from its recent conference opponents. In their last five games, the Cavaliers have started the second half with a lead only once.
“Since we’ve been ranked and have a solid record, you have a little bit more of a target on your back,” Bennett said. “You have to know you are going to get people’s [best and] be ready.”
Last year’s against Miami ended in heartbreak, as the Cavaliers turned the ball over on an inbounds pass as they looked to tie the game. At that time, Virginia was merely hoping to blemish on Miami’s perfect home record. This time around, the situation is reversed as Miami will try to stop the Cavaliers from setting a school record of 17 straight home ACC wins. Virginia has already locked a bye for the first two rounds of the ACC tournament with its strong conference record thus far.
“Conference races, that’s the test of time,” Bennett said. “That’s the test of the long haul of 18 games. It’s a longer, bigger snapshot of [the] quality of your season.”
Unlike Virginia’s balanced offense, Miami’s production is top heavy, with senior guard Rion Brown scoring nearly a quarter of Miami’s points so far this season. Miami’s top three scorers have accounted for 55 percent of the team’s point production.
The Cavaliers have been able to share the scoring load, with senior guard Joe Harris and redshirt sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon each accounting for 18 percent of Virginia’s point production on the year. Sophomore guard Justin Anderson, despite coming off the bench, has the third highest share of Virginia’s point production.
“We’re balanced with Joe Harris and others willing to play together, be good together,” Bennett said. “That’s our way. We gotta rely on each other with team defense and team offense.”